Nigeria amnesty under threat

Shaky ground: President Goodluck Jonathan's militant amnesty could fail within months, report claims

Nigeria’s amnesty offered to militant groups in 2009 is on shaky ground and “could fail within months”, putting the country’s staple oil & gas industry under increased threat, a report claimed.

A clampdown on illegal bunkering by the Goodluck Jonathan administration may push agitators back to the creeks in key oil-producing states with pipeline attacks, abductions and other criminal behavior likely to rise as a result, the report from Bergen Risk Solutions claimed.

Nigeria’s government and oil industry has experienced a dip in attacks since militant groups were offered an amnesty in 2009, with many taking up the offer and dropping their guns. However, concerns abound that much of the promises made in the amnesty have not been carried through.

“Frustration among former militants grows as the amnesty program fails to generate jobs and infrastructure development fails to materialise,” the monthly report from the Norwegian risk analysis firm on the security situation in Nigeria read.

“The amnesty is now under massive strain and local commentators believe it could fail within months.

“The possibility that some former militants will return to violence and sabotage of petroleum infrastructure is increasing as the so called ‘Third Phase Militants’ continue to be denied access to the amnesty programme.

“They are present in all the major oil producing states. However, the clampdown on bunkering in Delta State will likely force into other forms of criminal activity, such as kidnapping and robberies,” the report continued.

President Jonathan still “enjoys widespread support” in the oil-rich Niger Delta where he has “surrounded himself with a cabal of Niger Delta indigenes who hold key appointments in the oil and gas and maritime sectors”, according to the report.

It continued, however: “Loyalty in the country is fickle, particularly in the Niger Delta where alliances are made and broken with ease.

“Persistent and increasing rumours of a return to the creeks are probably linked to the increase in violent crime and kidnapping in Warri.”

There were three attacks on international stakeholders in the Niger Delta in February as against just one in January, four in December and three in February last year, according to the report. Oil production in the country remained relatively steady from previous months, however, at 2.08 billion barrels for the month.

The security situation offshore is worsening, however, with Bergen Risk Solutions arguing: “Piracy and maritime crime has “returned home”, with an increase in attacks off the central and eastern Niger Delta since last November. Attack frequency on the Calabar River has fallen. The offshore reach of pirates has increased.”

Rival risk anaylsis firm AKE said in its February report that there were eight attacks on vessels off Nigeria last month, twice the number from January. Attacks are increasing in frequency and range with corresponding levels of violence, it added.

AKE said “serious attacks are expected to continue off Nigeria and Benin” with assaults “likely to involve high levels of violence directed at crew members, and possible abduction of small numbers of crew”.

“Foreign vessels will face an increased risk of kidnap as militancy increases in the Niger Delta, with political motives used as a justification to carry out criminal activity. The main incentive for offshore attacks, however, will continue to be financial,” AKE added.

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